‘Banty’ enjoying the journey as major final test awaits

By Shaun Casey

CORDUFF’S championship journey began with a loss to old rivals Magheracloone in the opening round of the group stages in Monaghan, but Seamus McEnaney’s side regrouped and refocused and have never looked back since.

They eventually earned their revenge, defeating Magheracloone in both Monaghan league and championship finals and this Saturday, they hope to extend their championship winning run to ten games in a row.

Earn victory over Tyrone’s Galbally and they’ll claim the Patrick McCully Cup and the right to call themsevles Ulster’s best intermediate side.

“It’s been a brilliant journey for the club over the past eight or ten weeks,” said manager and ex-Monaghan boss Seamus McEnaney, who took over in late 2021.

“We really gathered momentum amongst supporters and probably the most enjoyable part of it is when the game is over, you’re meeting people that you never seen at football games before in our club. The whole community has gathered around us and it’s a good feeling.”

When McEnaney entered the hot-seat at his home club, the team were at a low ebb. “In 2020 and 2021, we were in relegation games to go to junior. We just felt that the group of players were still there, there’s plenty of good players.

“To win the Monaghan Championship for the first time in 24 years, to go senior for the first time in 24 years as a club, has been brilliant. To snatch the league title the following Sunday by a point after being ten points down was brilliant as well.

“It’s a great journey for the players, it’s a great journey for the club, it’s a great journey for the community, albeit we’re heading into a different task here altogether. An Ulster final against the favourites to win the Intermediate All-Ireland and they were here before.”

Now to crown an already unforgettable season, there is the small matter of dealing with Tyrone champions Galbally, who have been in fantastic form throughout their own provincial campaign.

Nobody has scored more than Paddy Crozier’s side in the Ulster Championship as they’ve notched 8-24 across two games.

That haul of 7-12 in the quarter-final win over Glenullin still catches the eye.

But in saying that, the Corduff defence has been steely tough as well. In their three Ulster outings to date, against Shane O’Neill’s, Saval and Castlerahan, ‘Banty’s’ men have only conceded 2-18, an average of just eight points a game.

“They’ve been scoring freely right throughout the Tyrone Championship, and I’ve seen them, and I’ve obviously watched them closely,” said McEnaney on Galbally’s attacking threat.

“Their scoring power is phenomenal. They were here three years ago in the Ulster Club final, but they have an awful lot of additions to that team and their firepower now compared to what it was three years ago is completely different.

“We know the task that is ahead of us, it’s a huge task. We’re very proud of where we come from, we’re very privileged to be in the position we’re in being Corduff people, from a very small parish and we’ll give it our best shot on the day.

“I keep on saying, you only have to be in front when it’s over. We believe we have a solid defence, and we have firepower as well, but will it be enough to take a team of the quality of Galbally? It will certainly be tested to the limit.”

Corduff bring a physical edge to their game and McEnaney believes that his side can mix it and adapt to whatever the opposition bring on the day.

“Gaelic football’s a physical game and it’s supposed to be a physical game and we feel that whatever way it comes to us, we can play football if it’s to be played skilfully and if it’s played physical, whatever way it comes. I don’t think there’s been anymore cards flashed in any intermediate game than senior game, there’s very little difference.

“The Ulster Club Championship is a place for playing football and it’s a time of year for playing physical football and that’s part of the game.

“We believe we have good enough footballers any which way it has to come to us. We have a preference for playing the game as best we possibly can and limiting the amount of cards obviously.

“At the end of the day, we went through the Monaghan Championship and we got one red card over the period of maybe seven games. It’s part of the game, it’s a physical game, it’s not soccer we’re playing, it’s not unphysical.

“But we feel that as a group, as a club, we can play football, we have a lot of skilful players, a lot of very good players.

“But no disrespect to any team we’ve played to date, Galbally is a seasoned senior team in Tyrone. They’re favourites to win the Ulster Championship…they’re favourites to win the All-Ireland and it’s a huge task for us to be competitive this weekend.”

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